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Adding a Secondary Dwelling: A Comprehensive Guide for Ottawa Homeowners

Posted on: June 10th, 2024 by Chris Scott

Thinking about adding a secondary unit to your existing home? Secondary dwellings, also known as in-law suites or accessory apartments, can offer various benefits such as additional income and increased property value. Here’s a concise guide on what you need to know before embarking on this home improvement journey in Ottawa.

Understanding the Basics

What is a Secondary Dwelling? A secondary dwelling is a self-contained unit with its own kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area. It can be part of your existing house or a separate structure on your property.

Key Considerations:

  • Zoning Requirements: Check if your area allows secondary units using the geoOttawa tool.
  • Building Permits: Essential for ensuring safety and compliance with regulations.
  • Building Code Compliance: Ensure your construction meets the minimum standards.
  • Inspections: The City of Ottawa will inspect your unit during construction.

Ottawa-Specific Rules

Size and Access:

  • A secondary unit can occupy up to 40% of your principal dwelling’s floor area. There’s no size limit for basement units.
  • The unit must have a separate ground floor entrance and should not add a new doorway on the front wall of your home.

Parking and Location:

  • The secondary unit cannot eliminate the required parking for the main dwelling.
  • Additional parking is not mandatory, but if added, it cannot be in the front yard.

Dwelling Types Permitted:

  • Detached dwellings, linked-detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, townhouses, and duplexes (existing as of July 17, 2013).

Financial Benefits and Costs

Adding a secondary dwelling can affect your property taxes and insurance. Here are some costs you might incur:

  • Remodeling Costs: Ranges from $30,000 to $100,000, covering elements like firewalls, egress, heating systems, bathrooms, kitchens, and electrical upgrades.
  • Permit Fees: Minimum of $100.

Financial Assistance:

  • Better Homes Ottawa Loan Program: Offers fixed-rate, low-interest loans for home energy improvements, covering up to 30% of the cost for secondary suites.

Rental Income and Payback

Using the median rental prices from the Ottawa Neighborhood Study, the payback period for your investment can be calculated. For example, with an average cost of $100,000 and a monthly rent of $1,503, the payback period is approximately 5.54 years.

Enhancing Energy Efficiency

When adding a secondary suite, consider improving your home’s energy efficiency:

  1. Building Envelope: Upgrade walls, windows, doors, roof, foundation, and insulation.
  2. Heating and Cooling: Install efficient systems like cold climate heat pumps.
  3. Renewables: Add solar panels, geothermal systems, and battery backups.
  4. Smart Technology: Use smart thermostats and LED lights.
  5. Resilience Measures: Implement stormwater management and install cool or green roofs.

Adding a secondary dwelling is a substantial investment that can yield significant returns through rental income and increased property value. Ensuring compliance with Ottawa’s specific regulations and enhancing your home’s energy efficiency will maximize the benefits of this project.

For more detailed information, visit the City of Ottawa’s website and the Better Homes Ottawa program